For many, fall is a favourite season of the year; routines return, new sweaters adorn and life turns indoors for a cozy period. With this return to routine, fall is the perfect season to re-commit to healthy eating and re-establish the routine of eating healthy breakfasts and packing healthy lunches.
Starting Your Day off Right
You are probably familiar with the expression ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. We are starting to discover all of the reasons why this is true. Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast have decreased cognitive function (1) have shorter attention spans and impaired memory as compared to those who consume breakfast on a regular basis (2). In addition, children who consume breakfasts high in refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread) and sugars feel less full and tend to eat more at lunch time compared to children who consume healthier breakfasts high in whole grains and protein (3). Providing a healthy breakfast and sufficient time to sit down and enjoy it will give your child a healthy start to a busy day. Preparing a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are few simple ways to add nutrition to your breakfast without compromising time:
- Add fruit to cold or hot cereal – sliced bananas and frozen blueberries are a quick and nutritious option.
- Make a smoothie! Mix yogurt, bananas and berries with ½ cup juice or milk. Add some peanut butter for some extra protein!
- Make a breakfast parfait – layer yogurt, colourful fruit and granola in a fancy glass and enjoy!
- Scramble up some eggs – add spinach and finely chopped ham for extra colour and taste.
- Replace refined grain products and sugar with whole wheat options. Not only will this help your child feel fuller longer, but it will help keep their digestive system healthy.
A quick tour of most school cafeterias reveals an abundance of offerings such as fries, burgers, and meat lover’s pizza. While these options are favourite choices for many kids, children need a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products to grow strong and be healthy. Packing a lunch is important to ensure your child is eating a nutritious meal. Preparing healthy lunches is easy if you plan ahead. Involving your child in the planning and preparation process will make them feel special and entice them to eat their lunch. It’s also normal for children to quickly lose interest in what they’re eating so adding some excitement to lunch offerings and changing the menu and presentation once in a while will increase the likelihood that lunch will be enjoyed by your child. Make lunches fun by:
- Changing the type of bread you use for sandwiches; consider pita pockets, bagels, rice cakes or tortillas.
- Send your child a pita pocket and assorted fillings so that they may prepare their own custom pita sandwich. Great sandwich stuffing includes grilled chicken, chicken or turkey slices, tuna, egg salad, cheese and fresh vegetables.
- Cut up a variety of fresh tropical fruit and place them on a skewer. Your child will appreciate the effort!
- Home-made trail mix – Take your child’s favourite cold breakfast cereal and toss it in a bag with raisins, dried cranberries and a sprinkle of SMARTIES (as a special surprise).
Additional Wellness Tips
Physical activity helps children learn motor skills and become physically stronger. Children and youth need at least 90 minutes of daily activity to stay healthy. Help your child avoid the couch potato rut by playing sports with them, going on long walks and instilling an active lifestyle. Remember: Lead by example – you’re their best teacher and coach!
Along with eating well, being healthy involves getting enough sleep. Adequate sleep is required to feel awake and energized throughout the day. Set a bedtime routine with your child to help them unwind and relax before going to sleep. Reading a book or listening to some classical music is an excellent way for you and your child to relieve any tension or stress that may have built up during the day. Preschool children need between 10-12 hours of sleep, whereas older children and teens need at least 9 hours to be well rested. Make sure you also meet your sleep requirement by hitting the bed for 7-8 hours nightly. References: 1. Dye, L., Lluch, A., & Blundell, J. (2000). Macronutrients and performance. Nutrition, 16, 1021–1034. Skipping breakfast and decline in cognitive function. 2. Warren, J., Henry, C.J.K, & Simonite, V. (2003). Low glycemic index breakfasts and reduced food intake in preadolescent children. Pediatrics 112(5). e414. 3. Wesnes, KA., Pincock, C., Richardson, D., Helm, G., & Hails, S. 2003. Breakfast reduced declines in attention and memory over the morning in schoolchildren. Appetite 41(3), 329-331.